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Useful Tropical Plants

Cuphea ignea

A.DC.

Lythraceae

+ Synonyms

Cuphea liebmannii Koehne

Cuphea platycentra Lem.

Cuphea tubiflora Lem.

Parsonsia ignea (A.DC.) Standl.

Parsonsia liebmannii (Koehne) Standl.

Parsonsia platycentra Britton

Common Name: Firecracker Plant

No Image.

General Information

Cuphea ignea is an evergreen perennial plant with stems that become more or less woody and persist. A rounded, densely-branched plant, it can grow 40 - 90cm tall and as much wide[
352
Title
KemperCentreForHomeGardeningPlantFinder
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.mobot.org/gardeninghelp/plantfinder/
Publisher
Missouri Botanical Garden
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic cultivation details, plant uses, habitat etc for several thousand species of plants, mainly from the temperate zone.
,
372
Title
Flowers of India
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.flowersofindia.net/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Good quality photos and terse details on almost 2,000 species and cultivars.
]. It is usually grown as an annual bedding plant in the temperate zone.
This is one of several species in this genus that have been identified as potential commercial seedcrops in the temperate zone, being grown for their oil which is rich in medium-length fatty acids. It is unlikely to become a useful crop in the tropics because of the abundance of other oil crops such as the coconut (Cocos nucifera). It is often grown as an ornamental in the tropics and as a summer bedding plant in the temperate zone[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].
Cuphea ignea has escaped from cultivation in some areas and become naturalized as a weed. It is classed as invasive in Hawaii and La RĂ©union[
305
Title
Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.hear.org/pier/scientificnames/index.html
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A very good website detailing weed species that have been introduced into the Pacific Islands.
].

Known Hazards

None known

Botanical References

200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.

Range

N. America - southern Mexico (Chiapas, Oaxaca)

Habitat

Pinus-Quercus-Liquidambar woodland; at elevations around 1,500 - 1,600 metres.

Properties

Weed PotentialYes
Edibility Rating *  *
Other Uses Rating *  *
HabitEvergreen Shrub
Height0.50 m
PollinatorsLepidoptera, Humming birds
Cultivation StatusCultivated, Ornamental, Wild

Cultivation Details

Cuphea ignea is a plant of the tropical regions of central N. America and is not tolerant of frost. However, it is said to be suitable for cultivation as an annual in parts of the temperate zone[
423
Title
Desert Tropicals
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.desert-tropicals.com/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
The main focus of the site is succulent plants, but it also contains information on a wide range of other species. Usually at least one good photograph, plus basic information about the plant and its cultivation.
]. Whilst it can flower successfully for several months even in areas with relatively cool summers, Continental and Mediterranean regions with hot summers have been specifically mentioned - the most important factors being the length of the growing season and the amount of summer heat that is required in order to ripen the crop of seeds
Prefers a position in full sun, but is tolerant of partial shade. It is best grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils[
352
Title
KemperCentreForHomeGardeningPlantFinder
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.mobot.org/gardeninghelp/plantfinder/
Publisher
Missouri Botanical Garden
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic cultivation details, plant uses, habitat etc for several thousand species of plants, mainly from the temperate zone.
]. Established plants are tolerant of some drought[
352
Title
KemperCentreForHomeGardeningPlantFinder
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.mobot.org/gardeninghelp/plantfinder/
Publisher
Missouri Botanical Garden
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic cultivation details, plant uses, habitat etc for several thousand species of plants, mainly from the temperate zone.
].
Cuphea has only been investigated as a potential commercial crop for a few years, and still has the characteristics of a
wild plant. Those characteristics that differ from cultivated plants are its propensity to seed shatter, its indeterminate flowering nature, and its overall stickiness. If these wild traits can be overcome, Cuphea's chemistry, coupled with the annual and therefore renewable nature of the plant, certainly can make it a new crop.
Plants are generally short-lived[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].

Edible Uses

An oil obtained from the seeds has the potential to be used in foods[
289
Title
The National Non-Food Crops Centre Crop Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.nnfcc.co.uk/crops/pd.cfm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line information source, with information on over 100 species (as of 2006) of plants being investigated as bio-crops.
].

Medicinal

None known

Agroforestry Uses:

In the US it has been suggested to plant Cuphea in rotation with corn and soybeans every three years. If grown this way Cuphea can help disrupt the life cycle of corn rootworms - pests that account for more pesticide use on US row crops than any other insect. (Corn rootworms can cost up to $1billion per annum in control and yield losses)

Other Uses

The seeds, although small, are a potential commercial crop for their oil. The oil is a good source of medium length fatty acids - these oils are usually obtained from tropical sources such as palm and coconut oils. This species is particularly rich in capric acid (87%)[
370
Title
Minor Oil Crops
Publication
 
Author
Axtell. B.L.; Fairman. R.M.
Website
http://www.fao.org/docrep/X5043E/x5043E00.htm#Contents
Publisher
FAO; Rome.
Year
1992
ISBN
92-5-103128-2
Description
A well-written small guide that includes information on over 20 species. Also available for download from the internet.
].
Industrial oils made from these acids are valuable commodities as they have the potential to replace others made from imported palm kernel and coconut oil. Lauric acid is used in foods, mostly as vegetable shortenings, as a defoaming agent and a booster for soaps and detergents.
Medium chain length fatty acids (e.g. Lauric and myristic) are used in detergents and health and beauty products. Statistics show that 71,000 tonnes of lauric acid oils were processed during 1991 in the EC; they originated from Copra (i.e. Coconut) and Palm kernel
Cuphea has been used as an alternative to coconut oil in soaps, detergents and other products

Propagation

Seed - can be sown in situ[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. Germination usually takes a few weeks because of the hard seed coat.

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